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Dialogue Masterclass

July 12, 2015

I don’t know, I was going to do something with “hipster hop,” like, P to the B to the muthafuckin’ R; put your homemade ceramics in the air and glaze ’em like you just don’t care; a cataclysm of my artisanal jism got you questioning your feminism; I’m so trendy and original that even though I planned ’em / my references are so obscure that I don’t understand ’em; ride my bike to Trader Joe’s, later, hoes, whaaaat–but everyone’s kind of got the idea already just from this sentence, right?

When asked for a statement in response to the above paragraph, UBC was like, “We stand by our decision to include this person in the legitimate courses that we offer and can’t wait to have her name associated with a bunch of our things.”

I left my teaching job a month ago so I’d have time to focus on writing and reading for a while before the semester starts. Class registration was last month and for some reason that still isn’t clear to me I decided to sign up for playwriting. (Go ahead, spell it “playwrighting.” I DARE YOU, MOTHERFUCKER.) I’d planned to take nonfiction, which would have been a more obvious choice since I’ve written a nonfiction manuscript and 9004 blog posts and so on, whereas I’ve never written a play in my life. I’m a third of the way through the “how to write a play” book I took out of the library yesterday but I would still say I have way less than 33% of a clue. When I registered I was in this cavalier mood, like, Hey, I’ve read classical plays, it’s fun to write dialogue, I’ve been in situations of having to quickly catch up in a classroom, I’m too old and embittered to take grades seriously anymore, I want to light my nonfiction manuscript on fire and dance as it burns, so let’s try something different.

Here’s a little taste of something I’ve been working on this week:

JOHN: Hi, Jerry. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: John is friendly.]
JERRY: Hey, dude. How’s it goin’? [Jerry is a more casual kind of person, which comes through in his word choice and pronunciation]
JOHN: Pretty good. How about you? [John doesn’t really have time for a long conversation right now, as he’s on his way to a meeting. But, as mentioned previously, he is polite.]
JERRY: Not bad, man. Not bad at all, yo. [In fact, Jerry broke up with his girlfriend of seven years just last night, but he is a “macho” type and doesn’t want to talk about it as he’s afraid he’ll be perceived as effeminate if he demonstrates any sort of affection for a female.]
JOHN: That’s great! Well, I’m going to get going. Bye! [John is Caucasian.]
JERRY: No prob. See you around. [Jerry is feeling so lonely and overwhelmed that he wonders if it might not be better to just end it all. “Prob” is slang for “problem.”]
JERRY walks away, hiding all of his feelings.
JOHN (to the audience): I met Jerry in high school. By the way, I’m feeling insecure about my career because of offhand comments my boss has been making. If I lost my job my wife would leave me because she’s very materialistic.

(end scene)

Are there enough explanatory notes? I’m kind of worried about that. I want the audience to have a complete understanding of the conflict and emotions, as well as the background and personality information, so I thought notes would help to make it all clear.

I also enjoy the task of dissecting romantic relationships and writing conversations between lovers. In the next piece, a couple discusses meal options. This one hasn’t been edited as much but hey, every dramatic masterwork has to start somewhere, right?

DR. FAUSTUS: Babe, what’s for dinner?
BLANCHE DUBOIS: I was thinking we could order in.
DR. FAUSTUS: We’ve ordered in twice already this week. We need to start sticking to our budget. Isn’t there anything in the fridge?
BLANCHE DUBOIS: Dr. Faustus, I’m tired, okay? It’s been a really stressful week. It’s like 7:30 already and it’s a million degrees in here. That sushi place up the street is cheap; we could grab something there.
DR. FAUSTUS: You’re such a bitch.
BLANCHE DUBOIS: Come over here and fuck me right now. [He does.]

For that one I borrowed character names from some other plays I know of, but the characters themselves are totally original. That’s okay, right? If not, I can always change them during the editing process. Maybe my classmates will have some suggestions. What I was aiming for in that scene, in case it’s not obvious, was a really smooth progression from conflict to resolution. I *might* add one or two more lines before the sex starts up (if this play ends up being staged it will be a really tastefully done scene; don’t worry!) but it’s not for sure.

Anyway, I’m going to get back to work, but if anyone has any comments or suggestions, fire away! Writers are famously good at accepting criticism, so don’t be shy.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Joaquín permalink
    July 13, 2015 12:58 pm

    Brilliant, as always.

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